An update on the progress of the Falkland Islands’ economy has been given to the Falkland Islands Association at their annual general meeting in London. Member of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Mike Summers indicated that all aspect of the Islands development were doing well.
Progress in development and exploitation of offshore oil extraction indicated an estimate of 350 million barrels of oil In the Sea Lion field at a commercially viable price, with positive prospects in other areas. Commercial fishing continued to prosper making a major contribution to the economy and supplying 60 per cent of Europe’s consumption of calamari squid. Mr. Summers expressed concern that the United Kingdom’s negotiations for exit from the European Union should secure a fair deal for the Falkland Islands and the UK’s other overseas territories for continued access to European markets. On attempts to get improved communications, he said a new direct flight to the South American mainland to Sao Paulo in Brazil would be welcome. He pointed out that the Argentine Government of President Macri had promised there would be no obstruction to such flight as pledged in the recent Anglo-Argentine Joint Declaration on more positive relations. Mr. Summers thanked the Falkland Islands Association for its continuing strong support and suggested it might consider changing its name to “Friends of the Falklands”.
The Association’s Chairman, former Falklands Governor, Mr Alan Huckle, gave a wide-ranging analysis of events affecting the Islands including the Brexit negotiations and Donald Trump’s election as United States President. It has been an interesting year full of surprises with possible impact on the Falkland Islands and on the work of the Falkland Islands Association. In the UK’s negotiating position with the EU, particularly on access to the single market, it was reassuring that a separate group would be set up to take the Overseas Territories into account.
Argentina’s President Macri’s policy on the Falklands promised a reduction in the level of rhetoric, though the Argentine government still protests about the routine testing of the Rapier missile system. But there was agreement with the UK that appropriate measures would be taken to remove all obstacles limiting the economic growth and sustainable development of the Falkland Islands, including trade, fishing, shipping and hydrocarbons. But he made the point that Argentina’s sovereignty claim was constitutionally inviolate.
Whilst Argentina maintains its sovereignty claim, the adoption of more moderate Argentine policies remain unlikely. So there is still much for the FIA to do to help raise awareness of the problems facing the Falkland Islands arising out of Argentina’s sovereignty claim. Argentina pays no regard to the wishes of Falkland Islanders, notwithstanding the overwhelming majority in the 2013 referendum in favour of remaining a British Overseas Territory. The FIA must highlight the modern-day Falklands in the UK, Argentina and elsewhere by showing how the Islands have developed. There is a generation of young people growing up in the UK who have little knowledge of the Falkland Islands and their importance for the UK. The FIA must maintain a capability through its membership to support Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination. We must never allow the UK Government to row back on its commitment that there shall be no discussion of sovereignty change against the wishes of the people of the Falkland Islands. The FIA is well placed to maintain a broad-based membership of those committed to the defence of the Falklands who can mount a lobby campaign in their support whenever necessary. For all these reasons the Association was campaigning to enlarge its membership generally and especially in the Falkland Islands.
The secretary of Parliament’s Falkland Islands Committee, Mr Andrew Rosindell MP, assured the meeting of all-party support for the Falkland Islands. He said that self-determination was something that brought all political parties together, at that representatives of the Falklands were always welcome at Westminster.
The award of the Bill Hunter-Christie prize to the overseas student who is adjudged to have brought the most credit to the Falkland Islands during the year was made by the Falkland Government Representative in London, Sukey Cameron, to Miss Hannah McPhee, working for a BSc in biomedical science at Queen’s University, Belfast.
The annual meeting followed the solemn annual memorial service and wreath-laying at the Cenotaph in commemoration of the 1914 naval Battle of the Falkland Islands. The Parade Marshal, was 1982 veteran Colonel Mike Bowles, the Colour Party, with escorts were provided by Pangbourne College cadets and HMS President, and a Royal Marine Bugler signalled the minutes silence. The service was conducted by the Chaplain, The Reverend Dr Richard Hines, former vicar of Christchurch Cathedral in Stanley.
Wreaths were laid by The Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Woodcock for the Armed Forces, by Commodore Jamie Miller, President of the South Atlantic Medal Association, for HMS COVENTRY and HMS INVINCIBLE, by MLA Mike Summers for the Falkland Islands Government, by Mr Andrew Rosindell MP for the UKFI All-Party Parliamentary Group, by FIA Chairman Mr. Alan Huckle for the Falkland Islands Association, by Corporal Daniel Biggs for the Falkland Islands Defence Force, by Mrs Sara Jones for the Falklands Families Association, by Mr Gordon Mather for the South Atlantic Medal Association, by Mrs Carol Stickler for the Association of Men of Kent & Kentish Men, by Mr Colin Vitler for the HMS PROTECTOR Association and by Falklands students in Britain for the young people of the Falkland Islands.
By Harold Briley OBE - London
Pictures by Peter Pepper